Monday, October 26, 2015

{Experiences with Miracles} The Things Which are Not Seen are Eternal

I have received so many miracles throughout my life, and this year in particular, that I know they are real.  I know God's power is in his temples and is available to bless our lives.  I felt it last month before I gave birth to my daughter, Norah Jane.  

My due date was still three weeks away, but for some reason, I was filled with worry and fear about my husband, Neal, leaving us for five days to attend his dad's funeral in Utah.  We live in East Texas, so it's a full day of travel to get across the country.  I couldn't possibly have Neal miss the funeral, so I was just very worried in my heart.  

One night I couldn't help it.  I cried and cried, praying for courage. Gradually, I felt a sense of strength come over me, reflecting on the courage of the early Latter-day Saint women who had given birth in wagons and under trees as they escaped religious persecution, or without their husbands who were serving years-long missions for the Church, and I thought that I could be brave like them.  I felt distinctly that this change in my heart was a result of my mom having put my name on the prayer roll in the Helsinki temple, where she and my dad are serving an 18-month mission. I've never experienced that before, but it was clear to me that this was where the feeling of divine power was coming from: the Helsinki temple.  

As it happened, a few days later Neal left for Utah and two days after that strong, regular contractions started.  I called a friend, whose husband took my four boys to their house and she took me to the hospital.  Before we left for the hospital, though, I asked my friend's husband for a priesthood blessing. He said in the blessing that everything was "as it should be," that my family members on the other side of the Veil were working on our family's behalf and they were excited for my future.  I now felt calm as we went on our way, wondering about the things he had said.  

In the hospital, labor was progressing rapidly and I called Neal, who was on his way to his dad's viewing, with the funeral the next day.  He was nearly in a panic and started to look at changing his plane ticket to come home immediately.  It wasn't possible that he would make it home in time since my labors were always very quick, so I urged him to stay and that I would just be brave and deliver without him.  As word spread through his family and to other ward members, many prayers began to be offered on my behalf.  An hour later, the contractions began to slow down.  By morning they had mostly stopped.  Everything was very unusual.  I've never started labor that early and it has never stopped once it has started.  I was discharged and on bedrest at our friends' home until Neal returned from Utah two days later.  I believe it was a result of everyone's earnest prayers that labor stopped.  It was a miracle!  

Neal had had a very meaningful time honoring his dad, reconnecting with siblings and relatives (many he hadn't seen in years), hearing new stories about his dad and having an opportunity to grieve while surrounded by loved ones.  I am so glad that he was there for all of the funeral events.  It was very important!

Norah was finally born a week and a half later.  My mom was with us, which was another miracle, and directly because of my early labor.  When I had called her to tell her what was happening during the first labor, she was very worried.  The temple had just closed for three weeks for cleaning so she started looking at plane tickets.  When we had tearfully said good-bye in the summer, we assumed that my mom would miss the birth because of her missionary service and the high cost of plane tickets.  However, my mom discovered that her flight to Helsinki to start her mission had added on exactly enough frequent flyer miles to give her a ticket to Texas.  And because the temple was closed, she was free to go.  A miracle!

In the end, my mom and my husband were both by my side during the final labor.  Just before Norah was born, contractions were getting stronger and I was keeping my eyes closed to stay mentally focused.  I realized that I could sense a change in the room.  A great peace filled it, so thick and tangible that I made the effort to talk and said quietly, "The room is so peaceful."  Neal, who was holding my hand, suddenly began to weep.  Just minutes later, I entered transition phase and was soon asking for the doctor to be called in, so I couldn't ask what he was experiencing, but later he told me that he had felt his dad's presence.  His dad was standing beside him with his arm around Neal's shoulders.  Neal felt as though his dad was saying, "Don't worry. I took care of everything."  Neal relaxed and felt completely at peace, not nervous and worried like usual during my labors.  I could hear his strong, steady voice coaching me through the pushing, which helped me tremendously.  Delivery was very hard work, though brief, but Norah and I were safe and healthy.  Neal's spiritual experience was a tender mercy and a precious miracle.  (I will add that three years earlier, during my labor with my fourth son, Sam, very soon before he was born, I felt a change in the room and Neal had the distinct impression that my Grandma Yolanda was there with us.  He mentioned it to my mom, who was also present, and she immediately confirmed that she felt her deceased mother's presence, too.  They were both in tears because of the sacred experience.)

We had several other miracles and tender mercies this year.  Neal had a career-related opportunity in the spring to visit Utah, and I accompanied him.  We were able to visit his dad in the Alzheimer's care facility where he'd been living for over a year.  We were shocked and saddened to see how much more frail and limited he had become.  Once a strong and robust man, my father-in-law was silent and staring, unable to leave his recliner, or even speak.  It felt very much like a final visit, and it proved to be so.

Much to our surprise, Neal was called to serve in our ward's bishopric just five days after his dad passed away.  It was sad to realize the finality of his father not being able to ordain him to the office of high priest in order to serve in this capacity, as would normally have been the practice.  But, thankfully, a temple sealer we both greatly respect and admire happened to be visiting our ward that very Sunday so Neal was able to ask him to step in, and the man happily accepted the request.  Both the ordination and the setting apart were beautiful blessings.

Also, this summer we needed to sell our house since we were now expecting our fifth child and our current house was very small.  We were very worried about how long it might take, how it would all work out, if it would sell for enough for a significant downpayment on a new house, etc.  Amazingly, especially for the slower market of East Texas, our house was under contract within 4 days!  When we finally found the right house for us and negotiated a contract, the bank was able to expedite the processing of the new house in half the time the old house was taking in order to have a double closing.  On the last day of July, with a host of beloved ward members, we loaded up a moving truck, and the next day had two closings, back-to-back, then unloaded the truck at the new house right after.  To us, it was a huge miracle and an act of great generosity from the Lord, especially since I was 7 months pregnant.  Additionally, our old house sold for enough that we could put 20% down on the new house, plus have a bit extra to put back into savings, and came out in a better financial situation than we had hoped.  Wow!

This year has been full of things like that.  It's been stressful, difficult, worrisome, wearying, but then resolved through miracles and comforted through tender mercies.  And then I've wondered why I was so worried!  I know God loves us and will comfort us in times of worry.  I know that hard times can take a lot out of us, but continuing to believe that good things will come in the end, strengthens our faith, determination and trust in God.  We become more resilient and more grateful, and more compassionate and willing to help others in need.

The last time I was in Sunday School before Norah was born we read from 2 Corinthians 4:17-18.  

17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;
 18 While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.

In light of all the events of the weekend before this particular Sunday School class -- Neal's dad's funeral, my early labor, my mom being able to arrange for a ticket to come, etc. -- I read this and thought that what we don't see right off is often the most important part!  During a struggle when we can't see how it will resolve, it takes faith to keep going and keep trusting.  Eventually, when deliverance comes, then we can see the good that came of it: how we've changed, what we've learned, blessings that have resulted, our increased love for God and Jesus Christ, and it all becomes worth it.  

Pondering on that I thought to turn to John 14:18 which says simply, "I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you."  It struck me that Jesus didn't only say "I will send you a comforter," but he also said "will come to you."  His ministry is personal.  He can come personally.  I don't know when he does, how often, or for whom, but he is not limited by anything.  He can come and personally comfort and strengthen us when we need it.  I don't know if the Savior came personally to my bedside, but he did send my husband, my mother, and even my father-in-law.  I am grateful beyond measure!


News from the Eagles Nest said...

Excellent way to convey the miracles afforded us by the bonds of love. Well done!

Christina Loumeau said...

Thanks for sharing Michelle. I felt the spirit very strongly as you talked about the experience Neil had with his father. How special. You have had so many "tender mercies" this year. I'm glad I got to read about some. We love your family!